ETHIOPIA – The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) held its 20th General Assembly January 22-28, 2017 in Addis Ababa, during which time the church elected a new president, Rev. Yonas Yigezu.
“God is calling me into a challenge but for enormous blessings ahead,” President Elect Yigezu said follow the election. “I am a team builder and prayer warrior: I see my success in this.”
Prior to his election as president, Rev. Yigezu served the EECMY as Director for Mission and Theology. He was first ordained in 2006, and is currently pursuing a doctorate through Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).
The theme for this year’s assembly was “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” taken from Romans 1:18. Also elected during the assembly were Rev. Dr. Kiros Lakew (President of the Addis Ababa Synod) as EECMY Vice President and Bacha Ginaas as Treasurer.
President Elect Yigezu succeeds Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa who served two terms as EECMY President, having first been elected in January 2009. “I am very happy that the unity of the church has been maintained and growth has been recorded during the last eight years,” President Idosa said.” The participation of the EECMY in spreading the Gospel nationally and internationally has increased. I will continue to serve the church in all my capacity.” Dr. Idosa is also president of the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (LUCCEA), of which the EECMY is a member church.
With 8.3 million members, the EECMY is the world’s largest Lutheran church body, and is still experiencing rapid growth. The church is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, though it has broken fellowship with several LWF churches in recent years over issues of sexuality and the authority of Scripture.
The EECMY has also been moving to strengthen ties with the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and its member churches—especially the LCMS—over the past number of years, participating in the ILC’s 2015 World Conference in Argentina, for example, as well as in 2016’s World Seminary Conference in Wittenberg, Germany.
Germany – The International Lutheran Study and Visitors’ Center in Wittenberg (also known as the “Old Latin School”) bid a formal farewell to its retiring Managing Director and installed his successor in a festival service on Sunday, August 14.
The service, held at the Town Church of St. Mary, the “mother church of the Reformation,” marked the retirement of Rev. David Mahsman, a missionary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), who served seven years in the position. During Rev. Mahsman’s tenure, the rebuilding of the “Old Latin School” (originally built in 1567) was completed, and the new center dedicated in May 2015. Rev. Mahsman and his wife, Lois, return to the United States around September 1 to live in St. Louis, their former home before moving to Germany.
The service included the formal induction of Kristin Lange as the new Managing Director for the Center. Lange, who hails from Kansas, studied at the Humboldt University in Berlin and works effectively in both English and German. Conducting the formal farewell and induction ceremony was Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, the LCMS Assistant to the President for Church Relations. “The focus of the Managing Director’s work will obviously change now,” commented Dr. Collver, “since the building is complete. Now comes the task of shaping the Old Latin School into an active gathering point for confessional Lutherans to meet, study, and get to know church partners from around the world.” Dr. Collver went on to note that the International Lutheran Council (ILC), a worldwide association of confessional Lutheran churches, is working to intensify its ties with the Old Latin School—a relationship indicated clearly on the building’s signage.
Serving as officiant for the service was Rev. Dr. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK) and Chairman of the ILC. The SELK and LCMS have been sponsoring churches for the Old Latin School project since its inception. Bishop Voigt was assisted at the worship by SELK pastors from parishes near Wittenberg, as well as by Rev. Dr. Wilhelm Torgerson, who served as the original project director prior to Mahsman’s arrival. Preacher for the service was President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church-Canada. In his German-language sermon, President Bugbee emphasized the heartbeat of the Old Latin School’s mission: to introduce needy people to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Luther’s old Town Church reverberated with festive organ music provided by Rev. Dr. Christopher S. Ahlman, an LCMS missionary.
The Old Latin School’s prime location at Jüdenstrasse 38 is just steps away from the Town Church’s main portal. The center includes offices, hotel accommodations, a lecture hall, kitchen facilities, and a chapel. In addition, Concordia Publishing House has many materials for sale in the center’s bookstore. The new director, Kristin Lange, also has her residence in the building, which has a busy calendar going into the Reformation 500th Anniversary year in 2017.
Ukraine – Representatives of four Lutheran church bodies signed an agreement in Odessa, Ukraine on August 12, pledging closer collaboration with one another and setting the stage for possible deeper cooperation in the future.
The German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (DELKU) was represented by Bishop Serge Maschewski. Representing the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches of Ukraine (SELCU) were Bishop Emeritus Viktor Graefenstein and Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko, SELCU Vice-President for Church Relations. Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver represented The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), while President Robert Bugbee attended on behalf of Lutheran Church-Canada (LCC). The protocol signing followed two days of meetings at SELCU’s Concordia Seminary in Usatovo, an Odessa suburb.
LCC has worked in Ukraine for more than 20 years, providing theological education for the SELCU since 1998. SELCU is a church body which began after a separation from the DELKU in the mid-1990s. Though the two Ukrainian churches have had occasional contacts since that time, the stage for stronger relations was set more recently when DELKU began expressing a desire to firm up its commitment to the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions.
DELKU Bishop Maschewski had been an early student in the “Russian Project” of Concordia Theological Seminary at Fort Wayne, Indiana (CTSFW), as the LCMS began working with developing Lutheran churches after the breakup of the Soviet Union. “It is such a joy to see to see these long term relationships grow and blossom,” noted CTSFW President Lawrence Rast. “It shows us how the gospel is ‘in the whole world’ and ‘is bearing fruit and increasing’ (Colossians 1:6), just as the Scriptures promise.” The Fort Wayne Seminary provided several continuing education seminars for DELKU pastors in the past year.
Since LCMS and LCC have a long-standing practice of cooperation in world mission areas, the recent discussions sought to foster cooperation and avoid misunderstandings in Ukraine, which has historically been an LCC mission field. President Bugbee observed, “When these talks began, the participants did not expect that we would end up signing an agreement to keep each other thoroughly informed of the work we’re doing, and to consider stronger joint efforts in the future. The discussions were marked by a great brotherly spirit. I thank God for that!”
DELKU includes congregations with history reaching back to the Lutheran Church in the Russian empire, which was extensive and well developed until the communist revolution of 1917 ushered in decades of repression. After dissolution of the USSR and Ukrainian independence, DELKU worked extensively with the Lutheran (State) Church of Bavaria in Germany, but recently began cultivating ties with the LCMS and its partners, like LCC.
LCMS and LCC are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
ST LOUIS , Missouri – On July 24, 2016 Rev. Dr. Ralph A. Bohlmann was received into eternal rest at the age of 84. Dr. Bohlmann had served as President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) from 1981-1992, and was the first to be given the title President Emeritus.
A funeral service was held Wednesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m. on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
Prior to serving as LCMS President, Dr. Bohlmann served as President of Concordia Seminary from 1975-1981, after having served as professor of systematic theology there since 1960. Dr. Bohlmann was one of five seminary faculty members who remained on the faculty during the confessional crisis over the authority of Scripture there in 1975, which resulted in the walkout of multiple faculty and students. Under his leadership, the school focused on resolving differences and encouraging doctrinal integrity. By the time his presidency came to an end, the seminary population was greater than that prior to the confessional crisis.
LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison expressed the synod’s deep gratefulness to President Emeritus Bohlmann. “Ralph is the last of the faithful who stood against the faculty majority for the truth of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions,” President Harrison told the LCMS Reporter. “The Synod is deeply indebted to Dr. Bohlmann,” he added, “and all these years later, we can hardly imagine the difficulties and trials which faced the men who were faithful. Dr. Bohlmann was resolute on these issues to the end.”
In addition to service as President of the LCMS and President of Concordia Seminary, Dr. Bohlmnan served as Executive Secretary of the church’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) from 1971-1974. He also served on the CTCR as a member from 1965-1971 and 1975-1981.
Dr. Bohlmann was the author of “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles,” a document which helped to ensure doctrinal fidelity in the seminary. It was later adopted by the LCMS in convention as a clear explanation of the Lutheran teaching on the authority of Scripture. Throughout his ministry, he was the author of a number of other books and articles, including Principles of Biblical Interpretation in the Lutheran Confessions. He also represented the synod in ecumenical dialogue with other church bodies.
President Emeritus Bohlmann is survived by two children Paul (New York City) and Lynn (Jacksonville, Illinois), as well as two grandchildren. Dr. Bohlmann’s wife, Pat, entered into glory in 2012.
MOZAMBIQUE – Missions in Mozambique continue to bear fruit as the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique (Igreja Luterana da Concórdia em Moçambique – ILCM) shares the good news of Jesus Christ.
In August 2015, the ILCM celebrated the ordination of its first graduating class of pastors—eight pastors to serve the young church body’s then ten churches. The celebration saw approximately 1,000 members converge on Villa de Sena, an event which drew considerable local and even national attention.
Amambo and Maviga
Among those discussing the event were Christians in Amambo, who heard the story from a local woman, who herself heard it from a truck driver. The Christian community in Amambo had been left on their own five years earlier, when the priest serving them left the village. Without pastoral care, the congregation remained isolated and alone, slowly dwindling as members fell away. The news of the ILCM ordination celebration encouraged the remaining congregation members to try to make contact with the Lutherans they had just learned of.
Two members travelled twenty kilometers by bike to a nearby town, where they found transportation by truck to Villa de Sena. In total, their trip took two days along rough roads in territory known to be frequented by lions. When they finally arrive in Villa de Sena, they were directed to Rev. Manuel Jambo, President of the ILCM, who welcomed them into his home. After a night of conversation they joined President Jambo and Rev. Mateus Sifa at the local church for worship. They returned to Amambo with the good news that the Lutherans had agreed to visit them to begin a course of instruction.
Within a few weeks, the newly ordained pastors from the ILCM did indeed visit. And on September 6, 2015, members, pastors, and visitors dedicated the Lutheran Church of Amambo. Just three weeks later, they dedicated another congregation fifty kilometers away in Maviga, as the members of Amambo shared the clear Gospel message they were now receiving.
Nine months later, international partners had the opportunity to visit the Amambo congregation. Rev. Carlos Winterle, a Brazilian pastor serving the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA) with long-time involvement in the mission in Mozambique, and Rev. Shauen Trump, Area Director for Eastern and Southern Africa for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), joined eight local pastors in visiting the community. 110 members were on hand to welcome them. Knowing that the guests would be unable to visit Maviga on the same trip, the congregation there also sent a delegation to welcome them as well—twenty-one representatives who travelled the fourteen-hour journey by foot.
The village of Cado similarly found themselves interested in learning more about Lutherans—though their reasons for doing so are somewhat different. The Christians of Cado paid dearly for pastoral services, struggling under the tyranny of a pastor who mandated a substantial cash payment for each visit. It was not until villagers started going to town, some forty-five kilometers away, to find a market for their goods that they realized not all churches operate in the same way.
When the possibility of life together under a different model came to light, the congregation took action to learn more. They sent out two youth by bicycle to Villa de Sena to make inquiries of the churches there—and once they arrived they met President Jambo and Rev. Sifa. President Jambo hosted the two Cado villagers in his home, where they discussed the theology of stewardship, offerings, and matters of financial administration in the church. Through these discussions, President Jambo was able to clearly share the Gospel, and explain the church’s focus on Word and Sacraments.
That Sunday, the two villagers attended São Paulo Lutheran Church in Villa de Sena, and got to see these focuses in practice. By the end of the service, their path was clear. They explained to the church members in Villa de Sena that they were sent out to find a parent church body for their congregation, and that they had been convicted that the Lutheran church was the one they had come to find. The Cado villagers requested the blessing of the São Paulo congregation to send a pastor to support a Lutheran church in Cado.
A few weeks later, three Lutheran pastors traveled to visit the people of Cado. The first Lutheran service was attended by fifty villagers meeting under a tree. Within a year, the congregation had grown to eighty.
It was in ministering to the community of Cado that another mission opportunity presented itself. Rev. Sifa was traveling the forty-five kilometer trip home from Cado—a trip that would be taxing in the best of circumstances, and even more so on one of Africa’s typical heavy one-speed bicycles on rough dirt roads. About ten kilometers into the trip, Rev. Sifa stopped at a trading centre for rest and a refreshment. While there, a teacher noted his clerical collar and asked if he were a priest. Rev. Sifa explained he was a pastor of the Lutheran Church, and they began to discuss the history and doctrine of Lutheranism. Interested in what the pastor had to say, the teacher asked him to consider starting a church in his village of Cado-Nhachiva.
Several weeks later, Rev. Sifa was on his way to Cado again. On the way he found the teacher and several other villagers waiting for him in Cado-Nhachiva. Rev. Sifa spoke with them and invited to travel with him to the church in Cado. They went. Not much later, Cado-Nhachiva held its first worship service, with 80 people attending. Today 150 members regularly attend services where the Gospel is clearly proclaimed.
The clarity of the Gospel preaching done by Lutherans is making an impact elsewhere in Mozambique too. In Chemba, a local community radio station host learned that firsthand. In Chemba, as in communities across Mozambique, the radio station gives regular airtime to local pastors. But when Lutheran pastor Rev. Julio Castomo had his first moment on air, the host was taken aback by his message. It was so different from the other preachers who came for their five-minute radio time.
After the broadcast, the host spoke extensively with Rev. Castomo about his message and about the church. The next day, he came to visit the pastor in his home. And that Sunday, he came to church to learn more. Immediately afterwards, he travelled to his home village of Suero to tell his extended family about the love of Christ. They asked him to go back to Chemba, collect Rev. Castomo, and bring him to tell them himself. After a few evangelistic visits, the people of Suero organized a church and invited Rev. Castomo to come. The first week 60 people attended. The next week there were 80.
The ILCM has welcomed other churches too. Rev. Rui Jalene Souza of Kapasseni has seen his evangelistic visits to nearby villages bear fruit, with four new congregations planted in the area. And an independent congregation in Mutarara, hearing of the ILCM’s work, recently sent two representatives forty kilometers to Villa de Sena looking for a church body with substance. The dedication of a Lutheran congregation in Mutarara is expected in the near future. Work continues in other areas as well.
There is a burning desire in Mozambique for clear Gospel preaching, both among the unchurched and those lacking pastoral care. The Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique is meeting that need, and they are supported in that work by faithful international partners. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (IELB); the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSISA); The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS); The Mission of the Lutheran Churches (Bleckmarer Mission) of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (SELK); and Redeemer Lutheran Church (Victoria, B.C., Canada) have all signed a memorandum of understanding with the pastors of the Lutheran Church of Concord in Mozambique to provide guidance to ongoing mission work in the country.
Lutheran missions in Mozambique grew out of the work of now retired Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) pastor Rev. Joseph Alfazema and his wife Perpetua. Their work resulted in the creation of the Kapasseni Project, a Canadian organization that helped lead to the creation of a Mozambican Lutheran church body.
IELB, FELSISA, LCC, SELK, and the LCMS are all member churches of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran church bodies.
USA – On June 8, the Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) signed a protocol agreement during a meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.
The agreement outlines how the two church bodies will work together going forward in such areas as higher education (theological education), cooperation in mission work, communications, and other programs. It further highlights that the basis for fellowship between the two churches is their joint witness to the authority of Holy Scripture and subscription to the Book of Concord.
The protocol agreement was signed by LCP President Antonio Reyes and LCMS President Matthew Harrison, as well as LCP Vice President Felipe Ehican and LCMS Director of Church Relations Al Collver.
The Lutheran Church of the Philippines has approximately 25,000 members. The LCMS has approximately two million members. Both churches are members of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) has announced that Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison has been reelected as President.
President Harrison was elected on the first ballot, receiving 56.96 percent of the votes cast. This is President Harrison’s third term, having first been elected to serve as president of the LCMS in 2010.
Also nominated were Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer and Rev. Dr. David P.E. Maier, who received 36.66 percent and 6.38 percent of the votes respectively.
News of President Harrison’s reelection comes several weeks before the LCMS holds its 2016 national convention. In the LCMS, presidential elections are held four weeks in advance of the national convention. Voting delegates from each congregation in the synod were invited to vote electronically from June 11-14, and the results of the election were made public June 15.
Delegates will gather in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center for the 66th convention of the LCMS from July 9-14, 2016. Elections for Vice-Presidents and other synodical officers will take place during the convention.
The LCMS, an American church body with more than two million members, is a member of the International Lutheran Council, a global association of confessional Lutheran churches.
USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have released a report noting significant doctrinal agreement between the three synods, following three years of informal dialogue.
Following a fourth meeting held December 2, 2015, leaders of the three synods agreed to the publication of A Report on the Meetings of ELS, LCMS, and WELS Leaders 2012-2015. Among the representatives present for the event were LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, WELS President Mark Schroeder, and ELS President John A. Moldstad.
Primary among the contents of the report is an assessment of the doctrinal agreement already shared by the three synods. “We agree that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the only source of authority for doctrine and practice,” the report notes. “We agree that the chief message of the Bible is justification by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, and that the entire Bible is Christ-centered. All of us also confess without reservation (quia) that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures.”
The LCMS previously enjoyed fellowship together with the ELS and the WELS until 1955 and 1961, the document notes, before breaking fellowship as a result of doctrinal controversies in the LCMS that peaked in the 1970s. Today, the three synods share such a level of doctrinal agreement that there is a strong desire for further discussion “with the hope that we may be able to come to full agreement under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit.” They note, however, that a number of issues still need to be resolved, writing, “All of us are convinced that church fellowship requires complete agreement in doctrine.”
“It has been a joy to meet with and talk with faithful Lutherans from the WELS and ELS,” said Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of LCMS Church Relations. “We pray that the Lord would continue to bless this endeavor and, Deo volente [God willing], grant a restoration of fellowship between the three synods at some point in the future.”
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council and has approximately 2.1 million members. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 400 thousand members) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 20 thousand members) are American churches in full-fellowship with each other. WELS and ELS are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.
USA – Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the North American Lutheran Church met September 9-10, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri to continue their bi-annual consultations. The series of meetings began December 2011, at the invitation of President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS as the church bodies seek greater understanding of the other church, ways that there may be cooperation in externals, and be mutually supportive, in spite of differences that exist. A representative of Lutheran Church–Canada normally participates in the meetings as well.
This consultation was the second meeting focusing on Holy Scripture. Four questions were presented and discussed: How did the Bible get here? What kind of book is the Bible? Which method is most suitable for interpreting the Bible? What is the proper use of the Bible?
In addition to presentation of church body reports, other areas of common concern were discussed, including the recent Supreme Court Obergefell decision in the United States, the challenge to marriage in North America, and the response to the persecution of Christians today.
The representatives will meet again in March 2016.
Representing the LCMS were the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations-Assistant to the President; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; the Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; the Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
Representing the NALC were the Rev. John Bradosky, Bishop; the Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus; the Rev. Mark Chavez, General Secretary; the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – On August 19, 2015, Øyvin Åsland, Executive Director of the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), and Hjalmar Bø, Director NLM International Department, came to St. Louis, Missouri to visit with The Lutheran Church–Church Missouri Synod and to learn more about the International Lutheran Council (ILC).
The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) was formed in 1891 as Det Norske Lutherske Kinamisjonsforbund (the Norwegian Lutheran Federation for Mission in China). The NLM is connected to the revival movements in Norway and adheres to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms. Their slogan is “The World for Christ.” It has approximately 2,500 chapters across Norway and runs nearly 30 schools from the elementary to college-levels. It further operates more than 40 kindergartens and community centers across the country.
The Norwegian Lutheran Mission operates in several of the same countries where the LCMS also operates. For instance, the Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries established Tabor Evangelical College in Ethiopia. Currently, some of Tabor Evangelical College’s faculty are pursuing doctoral studies through the LCMS’ Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Missionaries from the NLM have also had frequent contact with LCMS missionaries in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Latin America, and Africa. Although there have been many informal contacts through the years, this is the first time that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has sought official contacts with the Missouri Synod and with the International Lutheran Council.
The Norwegian Lutheran Mission has been seeking to plant Lutheran churches around the world since 1891 (three years before the LCMS itself began international mission work). Historically, the NLM has been a movement within, but independent of, the Church of Norway. It has, for example, opposed certain actions of the Church of Norway (such as the ordination of women). But the Norwegian Lutheran Mission recently voted to establish its own “religious communities” by a vote of 548 in favor to 121 against.
This vote marks a shift for the NLM, as it moves from being a mission agency inside the Church of Norway to a church in its own rite. As such, the NLM has begun to wrestle with the implications of this decision, including how it will relate to other churches in the world and what sorts of relationships it will seek.
Rev. Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS Director of Church Relations and ILC Executive Assistant) noted that the first formal visit with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission went well, and that members are looking forward to more visits in the future.
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